Graphic depicting situation in Fukushima Reactor 2 on 26 March 2012. Image Source: Daily Yomiuri Online.
Over the past 24 hours, the Internet has been buzzing with reports that TEPCO has effectively acknowledged that the China Syndrome is currently taking place, or almost taking place at Fukushima Reactor Two, while still denying it. This would be a historic first, and an absolute environmental catastrophe for Japan and the world. Basically, there is much less water covering the radioactive molten core than estimated; and this, in a situation where not all of the corium has fallen to the floor of the containment vessel yet.
The China Syndrome would involve a melt through the containment vessel. Once the corium gets through the containment vessel, it could easily melt the concrete floor of the building in a matter of hours and enter the environment. You can see message board debates on Berkeley's Department of Nuclear Engineering Web site here, regarding the possible outcome if the molten fuel from these reactors hits the water table. Since this has never happened, no one is quite sure what would occur. The fear is that there would be a series of hydrothermic nuclear or hydrovolcanic nuclear explosions, which would irradiate much of Japan and the planet's atmosphere.
The wording of yesterday's report on the Reactor 2 investigation is curious; it says that the molten core has 'splashed onto the floor and the walls.' We assume that means the floor and walls of the containment vessel and not the building around the containment vessel. TEPCO acknowledges that the conditions in Reactors 1 and 3 are worse than those in Reactor 2. Reactors 1 and 3 are so radioactive that they cannot be directly investigated; hence, what is happening inside them is completely unknown.
Caption for the above photographs: Long-term plan: Architect Katsuhiro Miyamoto's novel means of safely mothballing the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and the highly radioactive fuel likely to remain there even after the current crisis is resolved, is to turn it into a Shinto shrine — seen here in a model and a computer rendering. KATSUHIRO MIYAMOTO.
The situation is so terrifying and out of control that the sentiment is drifting to religion. Over the longer term, Boomer Architect Katsuhiro Miyamoto wants to turn the reactors into Shinto shrines, "erecting giant shrine-style thatched roofs over each of the crippled reactor buildings — and so creating what he dubs 'The Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant Shrine.' This, he tells The Japan Times, will 'pacify a malevolent god.'" Um. Wouldn't building lead sarcophagi be more appropriate than designing thatched-roof temples? What the hell is going on in Japan? Are they serious?
Caption for the above photograph: In this photo released by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), a worker operates an endoscope to take photos of water in the Unit 2 reactor's primary containment vessel at the the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, Monday, March 26, 2012. TEPCO, the operator of the nuclear power plant, said the water level of the reactor container is only 60 centimeters (about 2 feet) from the bottom, indicating a large quantity of water injected to cool the melted fuel is leaking from the vessel. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)
It's hard to find an MSM report on this, except some wires from the AP and the AFP. From the AP report, out today:
TEPCO released a strange statement, based on an endoscope examination of the reactor, conducted Monday, 26 March (some reports erroneously state 27 March), via Daily Yomiuri Online:Tuesday's examination with an industrial endoscope detected radiation levels up to 10 times the fatal dose inside the chamber. Plant officials previously said more than half of the melted fuel has breached the core and dropped to the floor of the primary containment vessel, some of it splashing against the wall or the floor.
Particles from melted fuel have probably sent radiation levels up to a dangerously high 70 sieverts per hour inside the container, said Junichi Matsumoto, spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co. ...
Three Dai-ichi reactors had meltdowns, but the No. 2 reactor is the only one that has been examined because radiation levels inside the reactor building are relatively low and its container is designed with a convenient slot to send in the endoscope.
The exact conditions of the other two reactors, where hydrogen explosions damaged their buildings, are still unknown. Simulations have indicated that more fuel inside No. 1 has breached the core than the other two, but radiation at No. 3 remains the highest.
The high radiation levels inside the No. 2 reactor's chamber mean it's inaccessible to the workers, but parts of the reactor building are accessible for a few minutes at a time — with the workers wearing full protection.
The water level in the containment vessel of the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is only about 60 centimeters deep, far shallower than previously assumed levels of about four meters, according to Tokyo Electric Power Co.
The lower-than-expected water level was discovered for the first time when the power utility used an industrial endoscope to check the crippled reactor's interior on Monday, TEPCO said.
According to some experts, it is possible that nuclear fuel that melted through the reactor's pressure vessel and accumulated on the bottom of the containment vessel in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami may not be completely covered in the water.
TEPCO said the water temperature in the vessel remained relatively low within a range of 48.5 C to 50 C. The discovery of the unexpectedly shallow water level will not affect TEPCO's judgment that the reactor is in a state of "cold shutdown."
Reports out today indicate that the amount of radioactive fallout has been increasing, not decreasing, over the past few months. On February 18, Kobe University Professor Tomoya Yamauchi claimed in a lecture in Osaka that Fukushima City should be evacuated, which has sparked a still-ongoing row with the mayor.
Caption for the above photograph: In this photo taken by an endoscope and released by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), a white thermometer, right, is seen through the surface of water in the Unit 2 reactor's primary containment vessel at the the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, Monday, March 26, 2012. TEPCO, the operator of the nuclear power plant, said the water level of the reactor container is only 60 centimeters (about 2 feet) from the bottom, indicating a large quantity of water injected to cool the melted fuel is leaking from the vessel. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)
The primary reports circulating are, via Energy News (reports without dates are from the past day or so; earlier reports have dates); click on the headlines to go to external reports:
- *Yomiuri* Experts: Melted fuel may not be covered in water — Far shallower than assumed — Tepco still claiming Fukushima Daiichi in state of ‘cold shutdown’
- NHK: Suppression chamber “may have been destroyed” at Reactor No. 2 (VIDEO)
- TV: Radiation levels 10 times higher than experts hoped at Reactor No. 2 — No. 1 and 3 even worse (VIDEO)
- NHK: Whitish floating matter in Reactor No. 2 said to be rust, not melted fuel — No endoscopy for Reactors No. 1 or 3, radiation too high (VIDEO)
- AFP Headline: ‘Fukushima reactor in crisis again’ — Renewed concerns about plant’s stability
- Fukushima monthly fallout higher now than 9 months ago in June
- Radiation spikes in Tokyo at Shinjuku detector — Up to triple normal levels
- Japan Radiation Professor: “Fukushima City needs to be evacuated”
- Nuclear Consultant: Damage to base of Reactor No. 2 is “so severe”
- Asahi: High radiation means delays in decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi — 30-year roadmap will likely now have to be revised
- AP: “Hardly any cooling water inside one of the reactors” — Water level only 6% of estimate — Radiation at 10 times fatal dose
- Kyodo hints Tepco’s long-term plan to decommission Fukushima may be in jeopardy
- Yomiuri: Fukushima Daini was ‘near meltdown’ admits head of plant — “At the moment, I can only say we’ll maintain a STATE of cold shutdown” February 9, 2012
- Japan nuclear professor warns melted fuel may NOT be covered by water at Reactor 2 January 20, 2012
- NHK: Over half of fuel has melted out at Reactors No. 2 and 3, says Tepco’s assumed worst scenario (VIDEO) November 30, 2011
- Yomiuri: Unknown how much nuclear fuel has melted through Fukushima reactors and ‘dispersed’ — Questionable to assess that as nearly a ‘cold shutdown’ November 19, 2011
- Analysis: Melted fuel completely penetrated concrete in under 15 hours at GE Mark I -- Shows little decline in speed (CHART) (30) March 17, 2012
- NYTimes in '93: Worst type of reactor accident is nuclear fuel melting, burning through vessel and reactor basement, then into earth (11) March 16, 2012
- French nuclear specialists agree Fukushima "could still explode", corium a threat -- Reactors remain in meltdown says expert, molten lava could break through at any point (25) March 11, 2012
- Top US Nuke Official: Melted core penetrates concrete at 2 inches per hour -- No doubt containment is lost during blackout -- Manual tells you everything except how to stop it -- Mark I worst of all (AUDIO) (120) March 1, 2012
- NHK: Gov't report said if Fukushima containment vessels were damaged, Tokyo would be voluntarily evacuated (17) February 12, 2012
- Fukushima Boss: "The worst-case scenario is a China syndrome" where fuels leaves containment -- Top Gov't Official: Strong possibility fuel outside containment (17) December 29, 2011
- Fukushima Boss: "Situation could lead to a so-called China syndrome" if Reactor 2 was left unattended -- Hours later gives order to evacuate (22) December 29, 2011
- Japan Times: China Syndrome was near at Reactor No. 2, believed Fukushima boss Yoshida (18) December 28, 2011
- NYT: Experts suspect melted fuel may be threatening groundwater -- "Battle of epic proportions" says Koide -- Concerns over recriticality (18) December 16, 2011
- Nuclear specialist: Corium hitting water table is "big concern" -- Once fuel hits groundwater the concern is "it just blows right up" (VIDEO) (50) December 7, 2011
- Nuclear Expert: Tepco is admitting they are very close to China Syndrome at Fukushima, where melted fuel penetrates earth (VIDEO) (56) December 6, 2011
- Radio: Just a matter of time before molten core reaches groundwater at Fukushima, says architect of Reactor No. 3 (VIDEO) (61) December 5, 2011
- Guardian: Tepco now says concrete "could have been penetrated" -- Fukushima 'may' have narrowly averted China Syndrome (90) December 2, 2011
- MBS Radio (Japanese): Humans have never gone through such a crisis says Koide -- Tepco's assumption 37cm of concrete remains is 'baseless' -- Suspects container broken (AUDIO) (29) December 1, 2011
- China Syndrome discussed in multiple news reports: Closer than previously believed to burning through ground below reactor (23) December 1, 2011
- Kyoto U. Prof: I always argued that containment is broken -- Said melted fuel may already be 40 feet underground (11) December 1, 2011
- Newly-surfaced Video: "For some time" NRC staff has contemplated that all reactor cores are 'ex-vessel' due to time without cooling (47) November 30, 2011
- "Huge steam explosions" if nuclear fuel hits water... Just a matter of time before corium melts through Fukushima station: Former secretary of UK gov't committee (VIDEO) (13) November 21, 2011
- China syndrome inevitable says architect of Fukushima Reactor No. 3 -- Warns of massive hydrovolcanic explosion -- Melted fuel inevitably sank underground (217) November 19, 2011
- Anonymous ex-Fukushima engineer: "Fuel pellets could have been carried to different parts of plant" -- TEPCO won't deny that "fuel may have burrowed into ground" -NYT (36) November 2, 2011
- NHK, Tepco finally confirm steam came up from underground at Reactor No. 1 -- Now 4.7 Sieverts per hour, almost 20% more than in June (92) October 17, 2011
- Yomiuri on China Syndrome: Gov't secretly figured out how far the melted fuel would burn through reactor pedestals -- "Worst-possible scenario" (89) October 16, 2011
- Japan nuke expert: Melted fuel rods estimated to be 12 meters underground Reactors No. 1-3 -- To be 100 feet deep in a year (AUDIO) (26) September 21, 2011
- Dr. Koide: Massive amounts of radioactivity may again be released from Fukushima -- Mentions "steam explosion" after melted fuel hits water (170) September 9, 2011
- Kyoto U. expert: Melted fuel may have sunk into ground -- "We are now head to head with a situation that mankind has never faced before" (67) September 9, 2011
- Report: Gov't paper shows melt-out at Fukushima was predicted on day of quake (32) September 8, 2011
- Report: Undated animation shows Japan gov't nuke experts must have known Fukushima was a melt-through (VIDEO) (4) July 26, 2011
- Worse than a 'melt through' - a 'melt out'? -- See Graphic (159) July 9, 2011
- Japanese professor: Melted fuel has gone through containers and is on concrete foundations sinking into ground below, as far as I can tell -- Underground dam was being prepared, but TEPCO resisting (69) June 20, 2011
- Gov't report suggests situation "far worse" than meltdown -- It "is the worst possibility in a nuclear accident" (83) June 8, 2011
- Fukushima plant "seems to be going through a limited version of the China syndrome" (119) May 23, 2011
- Film foretold Fukushima meltdown -- If reactors could not be kept full of water, fuel would eat through container resulting in "China Syndrome" (VIDEO) (44) May 21, 2011
- Time.com: China Syndrome "might just have happened at Fukushima" -- Molten fuel may have "melted through everything into the earth" (237) May 16, 2011
- Reactor No. 1 core had total meltdown and uranium fuel may be outside containment building -- Nuclear reaction could have restarted (54) May 16, 2011
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